The Scientist Expo was another site we developed for LabX Media Group. Woolwich Web Works contributed both design and development for this site. The original plan was to base both the design and functionality on a website for another conference site run by a colleague of our client's (who gave permission for us to do so). As development progressed, we found that Lab X had different requirements, and what we actually built was quite different from our original plan. Drupal's strengths also contributed to these decisions: were able to build things in a different way from the inspiration site (built on Wordpress). These changes were designed to make the content easier for editors to manage, saving a lot of time in content entry and configuration.
As an event website, the content presented to users needs to change over time. It had to be easy for editors to make these changes themselves.
Content building blocks
Our inspiration site had some nicely designed content filled with interesting visual elements such as images, statistics, graphs, and calls to action. To replicate this in Drupal we used the Paragraphs module, which makes it easy to create "building blocks" of different types of content. This content may include varied elements such as text, images, maps, or statics. Editors could easily add, change, and re-order blocks which was then displayed in an engaging layout.
Another key feature was the Floor Plan, which showed a plan of exhibit booths, indicates which are available to purchase, and which have already been booked. This was an important feature for the site because exhibitors wanted to know which companies will be situated near them at the exhibition.
Conference presentations & speakers
Our inspiration site had a simple form for conference submissions, which editors then had to curate via email and manually re-enter into the public-facing website after approved sessions were chosen. We knew that Drupal would make it easy to allow users to submit these proposals themselves, and recommended this approach to the client from the beginning.
Users could register for an account, complete their personal information and credentials, then submit their own session proposals (abstracts). The speaker and session information was hidden from view until the site administrators approved them and assigned them to a date and time slot at the conference. We implemented a number of usability features in this process for both users (speakers) and site administrators. These improvements include custom prompts to users to complete their information, and a custom administration screen that enables editors to view details all submitted sessions.
Configuration Management & Deployment
Drupal 8's new configuration management functionality made it easy for us to deploy changes from our development environment to the staging, then production sites. This way we could continually make changes to configuration and design and accommodate the clients needs as they arose.
Prior to Drupal 8, migrating site configuration changes was brittle, error prone, time consuming, and expensive. No longer.
What we learned
The process of building this site was very iterative. We started with an inspiration site and immediately began building: no static mock-ups, no wireframes. Once the clients saw the working website site they had a better idea of what they actually wanted and how things should work
Another key component of this process was making it easy for users to create content that would be presented in a useful or interesting way. Some of these elements were simple, such as the conference schedule. Others were more complex, such as the floor plan. As they went about completing the content for the site we found that what the clients needed was somewhat different from what we had initially built. We continued to work with them to add to and improve things until the Conference started.
One more thing: Drupal 8. This was our first somewhat complex site build on Drupal 8. Figuring out how to build all of this in Drupal 8 was a huge learning experience, providing us with knowledge and experience that we can now bring to new projects on Drupal 8.